Labor-Saving Technologies in the Javanese Rice Economy: Recent Developments and a Look Into the 1990s

Rising labour costs and declining terms of trade for rice farmers on Java during the 1980s have encouraged the adoption of labour-saving technologies. This paper uses extensive field survey evidence to illustrate current patterns of labour-displacing technological change in the Javanese rice economy. It presents the recent introduction of pre-emergence herbicides as a potential revolution in labour-saving technologies, comparable to that of small rice mills and sickles. The evidence shows that the growing use of tractors and machine threshers is further reducing labour inputs. These changes will have a profound effect on the role of women in rice agriculture. The paper compares the transition in the Javanese rice economy with that experienced elsewhere in Asia, and shows that the adoption of labour-saving technologies has occurred more slowly on Java than in other countries in the region.